The long-running campaign by Cornhill florist Sharon Davis to win council support to rid the street of pigeon mess and address property damage caused by the pigeons has failed to result in any action.
Sharon owns Interiors and Flowers by Design, one of Cornhill’s most charming shops. She moved there from the High Street over 2 years ago and, during that time, the problem of pigeons has, in her own words, “gone from bad to worse”. She said, “It’s not just the pigeons being here, it’s the damage they cause to the property. The empty flat just as you walk under the tunnel at the entrance to Cornhill is in a terrible state. The windows will have to be replaced as they can’t now be repaired but, apparently, the owner lives abroad so nothing’s been done. One window looks as though it’s close to falling out.”
Sharon has contacted Taunton Deane Borough Council about the issue but has been told that “they don’t do pigeons” and the Environmental Health Department “aren’t interested”. “Every time I gripe and it goes in the press something happens. Someone will come and sweep the path and a road sweeper’s been sent – twice – in the last 2 years. We get so many complaints now. I used to clean the passage every day and go out with buckets of bleach. The council came out and said there wasn’t a problem – and perhaps there wasn’t at the time because I was cleaning it! So I stopped.”
The health hazard from pigeon mess – which is known to be second only to asbestos as a cause of lung disease – is incontrovertible so Sharon has now decided to resume cleaning. She said, “I realised that I was putting my own health at risk by doing it but by not doing it I was putting the public’s health at risk.”
She accepts that, by drawing attention to the problem in the local community, she risks damaging her own and other Cornhill shops’ trade and is concerned that the ongoing danger from the decaying building above the entrance will mean that Cornhill will be closed. However, she feels that change will only happen if she makes the situation more widely known.
Wellington Town Clerk Greg Dyke has told Sharon he believes “Wetherspoons will sort it out when they redevelop the property” although the flat in question is not part of Wetherspoons’ development. Rebecca Pow, Taunton Deane’s MP has also been contacted and, as this article was being prepared, her office issued a statement: “I am aware of the problem with pigeons at Cornhill and will contact Sharon Davis now to see if there is anything I can do to help. I do understand that this this a very long-standing issue, though, and that the responsibility does lie with the property owners, who I believe to be Wetherspoons. I am happy to write to them to see if there is anything they can do to reduce or manage the problem.” Sharon has made clear to both Greg Dyke and Rebecca Pow that the problem is not Wetherspoons’ property but that caused by the absent owner’s derelict flat which is infested with pigeons.
With the issue unresolved Sharon and her fellow traders are left with pigeon mess – feathers and droppings which needs to be cleaned and swept daily – as well as a slippery surface and smell. “If this was in Taunton,” she said, “something would have been done long ago. Wetherspoons will serve food, there’s a sweet shop at the end of the lane where children shop and there’s a kebab shop here too. But, apparently, this lane is not somewhere that should be cleaned!”
Taunton Deane Borough Council was asked to comment and issued the following statement: “Pigeons are wild birds and congregate where there are ample ledges/areas to perch/nest on. The buildings in the Cornhill area, due to their age/variety, are attractive to pigeons for those reasons and proofing is the only effective control method along with restricting food sources (litter). Whilst we can all play a part in reducing food litter, proofing is the responsibility of building owners and the Council does not have any powers to force owners to do this. Taunton Deane Borough Council has worked hard, alongside Wellington Town Council, to try to contact the registered owner of the building in question.”
In the meantime, Sharon Davis and her fellow traders are left to keep Cornhill clean and safe for the public on their own.